Over the past 3 years, I have had the opportunity to use many of the Tom Bihn bags. Without question, these bags are the most well made bags on the market and, when I am shopping for a bag, I have gotten to the point where I don’t even look anywhere else. Over several years, I have used many other brands only to be disappointed in how well they hold up. For me, plain and simply, if Tom Bihn doesn’t make it, it is not worth owning.
Having owned or used these bags, I have made a “Top 5” list. I know everyone that uses these bags may have a different list, but when I first started shopping at Tom Bihn, I think this may have been helpful. First, I’ll give you a few details about myself that should shed some light on my choices. I am a working professional that travels occasionally for work (about 3 times per year). I do bring a bag to work each day that either contains my tablet or labtop. I often have multiple journals with me as well. I also travel with my family (2 children and wife) about 6-7 times per year. Of those 6-7 trips, about 4 are for long weekends with extended family. The remaining 2-3 trips are typically 1-2 weeks in duration.
Now to my Top 5…
5. Zephyr. While I really like the Empire Builder, I find that it is just a little too big for me. If you have a large labtop, then the Empire builder is your choice; however, I carry my tablet much more often than my labtop and the Zephyr is the perfect size. I love the organization. I use the outside pockets frequently, especially the zipper-less/open front pocket to slide something into temporarily if my hands are full. My only complaint would be that there is not a spot for a water bottle; however, I really like how professional it looks and I think adding a water bottle pocket to the outside would detract from this.
4. Camera I-O Bag. I am an amateur photographer, but have several lenses and accessories for my DSLR. It just holds everything perfectly. I love the versatility of the bag as the dividers are adjustable. I also love that the bag can be attached to the inside of the Brain Bag (and other bags) with Annex Clips and has the optional Quiver for my tripod. If I had one complaint, it would be that I would like to have a couple of O rings on the inside of the bag to attach a pouch or two.
3. Ego. The organization of the Ego is unmatched. There is just a plethora of pockets. If you add the Horizontal Freudian Slip, you have even more organization. The interchangeable stripe is a very nice touch. It fits my 15” MacBook Pro and has room to spare for my tablet. I love the 2 water bottle pockets – I typically use one of them for my umbrella. While more casual then the Zephyr, I think the black still looks professional. If you have a larger labtop, the Super Ego is your choice, but I find that it is a little too big for me.
2. Aeronaut. I have used the Tristar and Western Flyer. I really like all 3 bags. The Tristar and Western Flyer definitely provide more organization. It may be a function of how I pack, but I just find the Aeronaut to be my “go to” travel bag. It seems to fit everything that I need. I have had multiple instances where I have packed my Tristar, only to unpack it and use my Aeronaut. I like the cavernous main compartment. The end compartments are perfect for 1) my second pair of shoes and 2) toiletries. There are several O rings which are great for holding the multiple pouches that I typically bring along. As with the Tristar and Western Flyer, the backpack straps are a lifesaver when running to your connecting flight through the airport. It cannot secure a labtop with Annex Clips as the Tristar can, but I am typically carrying another bag if traveling with my labtop. My wife has one as well and we both love these bags.
1. Brain Bag. This was the first bag that I purchased from Tom Bihn and is still my favorite. Versatility, durability, comfort. It is the Swiss Army Knife of backpacks. If I have a lot of gear to pack such as a labtop and Camera I-O bag, it rises to the challenge with room to spare. If I just have my tablet, I cinch down the straps and it collapses to the perfect size that I need. The front pockets provide an adequate level of organization. Need more organization? Just add the Vertical Freudian Slip. Need to carry 2 labtops? No problem, it’s covered. Every time I need to fit just one more thing into my luggage, the Brain Bag always seems to have that little extra room to spare. For me, it is the perfect bag. No complaints. Ever.
Honorable mention: Absolute Strap (obviously not a bag, but it is so good it has to be mentioned), ID and Large Café Bags (I don’t use these but my wife uses them nearly everyday and loves them both).